French fashion's entente cordiale
Their labels have already conquered women's wardrobes. Now Sandro's range for men will turn the guys Gallic too, says Harriet Walker
Forget Carla Bruni-Sarkozy meeting the Queen: if there's one thing that's most indicative of the famed Franco-British entente cordiale, it's the proliferation of Gallic labels across our high streets.
From Maje – which has been sported by both Middleton sisters – to The Kooples, currently collaborating with tortured soul Pete Doherty, these brands from across the water have been embraced not only by variously esteemed national icons but also by us, the discerning public. Department store Selfridges reports a 20 per cent growth in sales for French labels in the past year.
And what happens in womenswear eventually trickles through to the blokes' wardrobes too. Sandro is one of the biggest French success stories in recent seasons; its casual and comfortably chic clothes have proved a hit in the women's market, and the label is preparing to open its first dedicated menswear store in London's Westbourne Grove next month.
"We are now living in a world where influences are worldwide," says the creative director of Sandro menswear Ilan Chetrite. "The classically elegant Parisian aesthetic, mixed with a more rebellious rock attitude, perfectly straddles the idea of aspirational fashion and wearable clothes that men actually want to buy. This might explain the success of French brands abroad."
From its naïve but modern duffle coats and anoraks, to grungey jeans and retro blousons, Sandro's "Homme" range channels that dedicated sartorial nonchalance that Frenchmen and women alike are so known for. There's nowhere better to look for those who wistfully entertain the dream of joining the "this old thing?" school of dressing.
Launched originally in 1984, Sandro's first store was located on the Rue Vieille du Temple, in the heart of the buzzing Marais district in Paris, taking that area's youthful vibrancy and irreverence into account in its designs. But since the brand's international expansion, there are now more than 250 shops worldwide – including three outposts in London, as well as concessions within Selfridges in Manchester and Birmingham. The menswear store, slated to open in June, will add to the portfolio the first space to feature the men's range exclusively. And Sandro stores are light, airy and uncomplicated, welcoming even the most impatient and recalcitrant of shoppers.
But its success to date has been compounded online too. Heavily featured on and a consistent favourite with online boutique Mr Porter, Sandro's menswear already has a cult of followers in the UK.
"The beauty of the brand is that they produce extremely well-made garments in beautiful fabrics at a very reasonable price," says buyer Sam Lobban, "taking their styling from clean, cool Parisian style with all the right nods to mainline designers. Slim suiting, great tuxes, crisp clean small pique collar shirts, and then great coats and bomber jackets. It is also rather inclusive; it isn't a look which requires the wearer to be some sort of bronzed Adonis in order for it to make sense, nor the stand out star in a crowd. It's honestly cool without screaming 'I'm cool, honest!'"
"Sandro menswear aims to create a lifestyle that represents the mixing of styles, non-conformism and a kind of elegant rebel attitude," Chetrite continues, himself the son of Sandro's founder Evelyne Chetrite (whose sister, Judith Milgrom, also founded the competitor Maje). "It is the alter ego of our womenswear. Sandro's menswear helps to express a language and philosophy that is common to both men and women."
There's something in that: Sandro's Gallic cool is at once right on the fashionable money, but it doesn't feel like too much of an effort. Pieces are easy and practical, will fit right in with your existing wardrobe, and come at reasonably accessible mid-range prices, located somewhere between the high street average and more expensive designer brands. And for those sorts of prices, you can buy into modern classics that will work for years to come.
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